Sport-Touring Defined

by Michael Kamrad

Achtung! Your attention please. Calling all sport-touring riders. BMW is having a blue-light special, the R 1100 RT. Today’s test bike features uncompromising ergonomics, touring ability and an almost perfectionist approach to performance and build quality from the rubber side up. “Give the people what they want.” BMW seems to be built around this approach.

In today’s market the sport-touring category is one of bitter competition among the manufacturers. The amount of engineering dollars spent keeps the sport-touring technology on the performance per dollar frontier.


The 1997 R 1100 RT has encompassed many well performing components that work together complimenting this motorcycles overall performance. There is no hidden wiener-schnitzel dogging this bike.

What do you get when you cross ZR rated tires, twin 305mm four-pot front brakes, a single-pot 276 rear brake, telelever front suspension, paralever rear and an eight valve air and oil cooled boxer engine? I’ll tell you what you get, pure sport-touring joy. Cross the street to a BMW dealer and take one for a ride.

Starting up this fuel-injected bike will bring forth that classic boxer twin sound, smooth and refined. Letting out the clutch and throttling ahead with 85% of the engine’s torque at 3,000 rpm will have you wondering if the speedo is reading properly. A low and midrange performer, the R 1100 RT is just like a duck’s gut, it really does quack!

With a low center of gravity and short wheelbase this motorbike will beg, even plead with you, to carve corners. The full coverage fairing and large hard saddlebags seem to disappear and suddenly the machine is all sportbike. Brake hard with ABS brakes and put confidence in the 120 and 160 sized tires. Traction is the name of the game and BMW has put tremendous effort to make this motorcycle a key player in that game.

Does anyone remember “Fahrfenugen”? We in the states call it functional. However this beemer is ridden, cruising around for sausages or visiting your distant German relatives, the comfort level is pure joy. The R 1100 RT is the Webster’s Dictionary definition of “sport-touring” riding position. There is also plenty of room to bring your friend Dieter along.

This motorcycle is a superior choice to ride in the Minnesota 1000. The bike virtually eats up the miles. The BMW build quality will ensure reliability in any endurance challenge. Reliability that will last today, tomorrow or come selling time. With a fit and finish that would make J.D. Power & Associates cough up the gold medals, the R 1100 RT holds tightly to the idea of quality. Tighter than any motorcycle we have tested for M.M.M.

The two thumbs up reviews we give this fine slice of German stock are hedged by only a hint of Limburger &emdash; the R 1100 RT’s size. A Goldwing on a diet? You will need to clear extra space in the garage for this bike. Its girth will be a factor in tight spots, but the fact that this bike is partially defined by the word “touring” does not make this a surprise blitzkrieg.

Owning an R 1100 RT will bring motorcycling to a new level of exploration. This bike has high performance capabilities that electrify the cerebellum, touring abilities that will make you look at maps of the entire continent and a perfectionist approach to quality. Your imagination is the only boundary to the possibilities aboard this motorcycle. Take my advice and ride one, as you’ll only regret the chances in life you did not take.


This Boxer Packs a Wallop

by Troy Johnson

As I roll out of Hannibal, Missouri on my trusty old Seca Turbo, I relish the prospect of riding Missouri state highway 79 to St. Louis once again. There are not many roads like this in the midwest&emdash;huge changes in altitude and miles leaning one way or the other. My rear end is a little sore, and the old knees are creaking a bit from the ride down, but I am not complaining yet. The Seca Turbo is one of the original sport-touring bikes, and sport-touring is the only way to fly. You have to compromise here and there, but it’s a do-everything class of motorcycles.

A few miles out of town I pass a fellow luxuriously taking in the river bluff scenery on a Goldwing. I no more than finish waving to him when my left knee twinges and locks up. “Man, maybe a Wing is the way to go. Nah, too fat, too slow in these corners.”


A few more miles down I hear an in-line four screaming behind me and gaining fast. I wave Kenny Jr. by, but the YZF has disappeared around the next bend before my hand is back on the bar. “Okay, I am going to get a motorcycle that does one thing perfectly.”

Not so fast! Leo’s South recently loaned M.M.M. a BMW R 1100 RT and opened my eyes to how far sport-touring bikes have come…at least BMWs from the boxer family tree.

When I first set eyes on the R 1100 RT the saddle bags were removed. The rear end was definitely of sportbike origins. It was thin with the lights and signals integrated into the tail-piece, and it wore a 170/60 Metzler ZR radial hoop. Scanning up the relatively short wheelbase to the front of the bike gave me a surprise. The fairing was big, shockingly fat. I stepped back and tried to integrate the disparate ends of this bike. The saddlebags were installed, and things cleared up. This is meant for touring.

I rode around the block to familiarize myself with the odder points of German hand controls and started to have doubts about the bike’s mission again. This was way too agile to be a tourer.

Summer had not arrived yet, and when I turned onto the freeway I received a blast of noisy cold air in the face. I moved my left thumb over to a big green rocker switch and raised the electric wind screen to its highest level. Instant peace and quiet. “This is Great.” I played with the wind screen for a few minutes and then dropped it back down, hunkered in and cracked the throttle open. The bike responded with instant power, big and smooth (90+ horses). The new boxer engine did not whine or thump. It throbbed.

I realized that the bulk of the touring aspect of this motorcycle had disappeared. It was now in full sport mode. I took it off the freeway and ran around some quieter roads. The Telelever front end that we have read so much about in the glossies works as billed. It combines the best attributes of telescopic forks and swing-arm type front ends seamlessly. You need to ride a machine equipped with Telelever for yourself to appreciate this stunning piece of engineering.

The brakes on the R 1100 RT were more than adequate. I usually have an opinion on a bike’s brakes when I get off of it, but I really do not remember much about the brakes on this bike. They must have done their job well to remain invisible. I did not give the ABS system a try, because I generally try to avoid panicking.

Does this motorcycle do everything right? Almost. I do not like two-grip turn signal set-ups. The beemer adds another catch by making you push up with your right thumb to turn either signal off. My thumb does not move that way.

There are a lot of little things about this bike that I liked. The wind screen is one. There is a handle that swings out from the left side of the bike that makes putting it on the center stand a breeze. I liked the LCD gear indicator, and the clock helped me to get it back to Leo’s South on time. On time, but I was sorry to see this one go.


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